Starting maintenance of your deck three months after being built and continuing every few years will extend its life and provide you with years of enjoyment. Initially use semi-transparent stains and continue to for several years until the deck becomes too blotchy. From there you can go to a semi-solid stain, and then a completely solid stain. At this point, your deck is about 20 years or more and is looking its age – cracks, splintering, and warping. You can use a very heavy deck coating which is simply a thick coat of acrylic paint that will last a year or two before water seeps under it resulting in bubbling and peeling. NEVER use the heavy deck coatings until it’s close to the end of your deck’s life because the coating will peel and cannot be fixed. Once this occurs it’s time to rebuild.
Deck Finishing and Maintenance
· Wait approximately three months for new lumber to dry out. You’ll see the joints become a bit wider as it dries.
· Sand or use a deck wash (with a soft wash process) to remove the mill glaze. Mill glaze results when the milling blades produce high temperatures causing the sugars in the wood to melt leaving a hard film on the wood’s surface.
· Toners and semi-transparent oil deck stains are the best choices for the initial treatment of wood decks. They will seal and shade the wood from the sun to slow down the graying process. Clear oil deck sealers will seal the wood but do not prevent it from turning gray due to weather exposure.
· Choose a slow-drying oil base stain that will soak deep into the wood. Water base stains seem to lie on top or the wood instead of soaking into the cells resulting in peeling.
· Occasionally inspect your deck for nails that have popped up. A better alternative is to replace the nail with a screw as it will hold better.
· Many deck stains on the market claim they will last 5-6 years, but in reality, last only two years when in direct sun.
· The first areas of a deck to fail will be the horizontal surfaces due to exposure to weather, sun, and foot traffic. Vertical surfaces will usually last twice as long as horizontal.
· Vertical wood surfaces can be painted for cosmetic reasons, but paint doesn’t wear well on horizontal areas.
· You may think staining the underside of the deck will help to protect it. The opposite is true because solid stain or paint will hold in moisture and cause wood rot. If you must stain the underside for cosmetic reasons, use a semi-transparent stain.
· Restain your deck in two years or as your see the finish start to wear where exposed to the sun. This is the best time to restain to maintain the fresh appearance of your deck. The longer you wait this will result in more graying and possibly irreparable damage.
· Shady areas are prone to developing mildew and algae. Use a deck wash (with soft wash process) to clean the wood surface. Never blast a wood surface with a pressure washer. Doing so will result in raising or breaking the wood fibers.
· The best material for a deck surface is a composite. Composite materials cost more initially but are cheaper in the long run due to requiring less maintenance and upkeep.
Your deck isn’t the only item you need to preserve that adds to your outdoor enjoyment. Store your patio furniture indoors. If this isn’t possible, gather your furniture and cover it tightly with a tarp to protect the furniture’s finish. Floral containers that are too large or heavy to move indoors should be covered to prevent water collecting leading to freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to cover your grill to prevent rusting due to exposure to weather.